Saturday, October 8, 2011


Over the course of this past year, I've grown enamored with the magician Derren Brown. Not so much his magic as his work with the subconscious and subliminal messages. Check out some of his stuff on Youtube and you'll see what I mean.

I came across an article that mentioned Brown's work and that of the author of this book, Martin Lindstrom. Brown's books are hard to find in the United States but the library system had this book by Lindstrom. Thought I'd give it a shot.

If subliminal messages work, Lindstrom needs to put some in his book because I really didn't care for it. Much of the book is self-congratulatory nonsense about a study he did using brain scans and tying it into advertising. If a section of the brain lit up when a subject viewed an advertisement, Lindstrom made the leap that the ad must have some connection to what that part of the brain normally does. For instance, a certain part of the brain is supposed to be in charge of cravings. In some of the subjects, that part of the brain lit up on viewing ads with a Marlboro red color. Therefore, Lindstrom concludes, the red in and of itself is enough of a stimulant to trigger the craving. Never mind that that part of the brain might be involved with a dozen other activities. Never mind that Marlboro is hardly even recognizable anymore because of the shutdown of tobacco advertising. If A, then B.

Lindstrom spends part of every chapter talking about how exciting his research is and then the remarkable finds. He hardly provides any details whatsoever about the studies. Given that this is to be some remarkable research, you'd sort of expect there to be a decent amount of citations, letting the reader know what has been done before in this area. At the very least, providing some sense that the results are scientifically valid. No such luck. While the book is chock full of citations, they're all websites, most to newspaper links, and the few that have any sort of connection to the scientific community are mainstream sites like Scientific American.

While I have an interest in the topic matter, I really didn't get a lot out of this book and hated Lindstrom's tone. I'm sure there must be other books out there on this subject and hopefully I'll come across them. I don't think this one is worth reading.

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